Clip of the Week – red mason bees entering and leaving nest hole

Red mason bees (Osmia bicornis) entering and leaving nest hole drilled into a log within an insect hotel, Gloucestershire, England, UK, April.

Red mason bees

The red mason bee is a small, slightly ginger coloured bee that nests in hollow plant stems, in holes in cliffs, and in the crumbling mortar of old buildings. They can also be tempted into an insect hotel! The red mason bee is a solitary bee so each female builds her own nest after mating. She lines each ‘cell’ with pollen and mud and lays a single egg in each, until the cavity is full.

Nick said:

“I’ve done a lot of photography of insects in urban and garden situations to show how important these habitats are becoming for pollinating insects and other bugs, and how planting nectar-rich plants, not using pesticides and installing insect hotels can really help ensure that a healthy variety of insects can thrive. Birds and other wildlife often benefit in turn. I’ve taken shots at a variety of insect hotels with different kinds of nest hole of varying size to suit different species, and was thrilled that a small one I received as a gift and put up in my garden last year immediately attracted a rose-cutter bee, a potter wasp and a tiny spider hunting wood borer wasp to nest.

This clip was shot at a larger insect hotel in Gloucestershire, which had attracted several red mason bees, shown here, some smaller blue mason bees and some potter wasps. All species were quite shy and hard to get close to, so for many shots, including this one, I positioned the camera on a tripod close to the nest holes and took stills or recorded video clips remotely when I saw activity or heard a returning insect. This clip was shot on a warm spring day when females were seeking a suitable nest hole and several were checking this log out. Other shots taken the same day showed males lurking nearby waiting for newly hatched females to emerge to mate with.

The bee and wasp species that use insect hotels are never colonial species that might lead to people being stung by aggressive workers, but are much shier “solitary” bees and wasps with single females provisioning nest cells with food (pollen for mason bees and leafcutter bees, paralysed caterpillars for potter wasps, small spiders for wood borer wasps) and can be very intriguing to watch in complete safety. Insect hotels make surprisingly good gifts that keep on giving!”